Monday, 30 August 2010

AudioPal Shiratori

In my last post I mentioned that the needle on the turntable I'd bought was broke, and while I'd bought a cheap cartridge and needle to tide me over, I still intended to get a new needle (Shure N97xE) for the original cartridge (Shure M97 x), as it's a decent piece of kit. After hearing about a shop called AudioPal Shiratori from the guy who runs Sasaki Records I decided to give it a shot. After work on Friday evening I ventured out towards where the shop was, having only glanced at a Google Map a couple of days previously. The shop is pretty small and is hidden in amongst a patch of trees and foliage, which is in turn is hidden within an industrial estate full of car maintenance shops.

I stepped inside and a middle-aged man poked his head around the corner. Luckily he didn't have the usual look of shock/despair on his face that normally greets a foreigner when he enters a shop in the middle of nowhere. I proceeded to show him the cartridge and told him the needle was broke, upon which he went behind the counter to look at some book or other. I'd noticed that I was standing on a mat in the doorway and there were a few pairs of Japanese slippers that looked like they were for customers to use. You often take off your shoes and wear slippers like these in eating establishments, but I'd never done so in a normal shop. To make sure what they were for I asked the guy, to which he asked me if it was too much hassle, to which I replied it wasn't. So with my slippers on he beckoned me through his workshop and to a room in the back which housed a selection of vintage record players, amps and speakers. He found one needle and tried it out, playing some jazz record on a really nice turntable. The whole place felt like his house. The rooms were carpeted and all the products were stacked on shelves, like books or picture frames. The slippers only added to the homely vibe.

The needle fit the cartridge, but there was some distortion to the sound. He went back to search for another needle while I browsed his collection of hardware. Luckily, the new needle sounded great, but I asked to hear it on a rock record, as I don't listen to jazz. He had a quick flick through his records but realised there was no rock, only jazz or classical. After having a discussion during which he told me he used to listen to rock when he was younger, he eventually managed to find a The Beatles picture disc which had never been played before - I think that was the closest we were going to get. Whilst the needle wasn't a N97xE, as the original had been, it was Shure, and we both agreed it sounded fine. The man then cleaned the needle up with some special fluid, and recommended I buy some. He also recommended I get a brush to clean my records with. This guy was obviously an audiophile, or a good salesman. The needle had been quite a bit cheaper than I'd expected so I decided to take his sage advice.

After purchasing the goods I complemented him on what a great shop he had, to which he replied I should come back again at some point and listen to some records. I removed the slippers, put my trainers back on and left the shop, nestled in between all those trees. What a guy.

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